Grace for the Introverted Mom

Note: As the title suggests, this is targeted to moms. Specifically stay-at-home moms that are constantly needed by their children. I don’t mean to alienate stay-at-home dads, I just have no authority speaking on your behalf! I’d love to hear your input in the comments!

Grace for the Introverted Mom (Just in time for the most stressful time of year for introverts—the holidays!)

Introduction and pseudo-history lesson

First thing’s first. Are you an introvert? Here’s 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert from HuffPost.

Introverted stay-at-home moms in this era have some unique struggles. Being a stay-at-home-mom is the most unnatural thing in the world if you look at the historical order of things. Humans once lived in tribes, clans, family units, villages. Children were raised by their mother, plus any other number of matriarchal type persons. Fathers and other men were involved in the education and nurturing of their children as well. Mothers had help in the form of relatives, wet-nurses or nannies. These days, we tend to fall into one of two extremes: we are the sole caregiver of our children during the day, or else we leave them in the care of educators and coaches and have little time to interact with our own kids. Hopefully you fall somewhere into the middle! Anyway, this isn’t about societal norms or a call to action. It’s about introverts. Introverts who are drained when they are sole caregivers to one or more children.

We need plenty of time alone, but we still need a little bit of social interaction to retain any sanity. Back in the day of the front-porch suburbia, or back even further to the time of the common well, introverted people got their social interaction out of the way, out of the house, and they came back home ready to be introverted again. Now we have the internet, that glorious invention of social media, in which we can pretend we are socializing, but which never really leaves us satisfied like real-live interaction does.

Your main goals as an Introverted mom are 1) time alone and 2) some real, in-person interaction with other human beings outside of your family. Here are some tips to achieving those goals.

Tip #1—Favor reflection over distraction.

We introverts need time, alone, with our thoughts. If I don’t get time alone just to think, or sort out my thoughts, I end up distracting myself with the internet. (As a teen, I used to distract myself with endless hours of TV. As an adult, I don’t have cable, but I have my own laptop.)

I’ll spend hours and hours on Pinterest or YouTube or clicking on random Wikipedia articles to distract myself, when a 20-minute shower would be so much better for me, because I spend only 3 minutes cleaning myself, and the rest of the time, I just let my mind wander and sort and think and rest.

Right now it’s 2 am, and I should be in bed, but I’ve just been putting off my time of introspection all this time, and now I won’t be able to sleep until I think about it.

Are you the type of person that needs to write thoughts out to get them out of your head so you can sleep? That’s why I keep my phone and a notepad by my bed. When a thought comes, I scrawl it out on my notepad in unabomber handwriting. If I don’t think I’ll be able to decipher it in the morning, I email myself on my phone.

Tip #2—Don’t feel guilty.

I feel guilty not being able to give to my kids 100% of the time. I feel selfish when I take time apart from them. I feel like a bad mom for wanting to get away from my children. I resent clinginess when it creeps up (and clinginess is natural for children exploring new territories and reaching new milestones.)

It is 3,000 times harder when my husband isn’t home, because that means I NEVER get a break, and my kids rely on JUST ME to meet all of their needs. I’m on call, 24/7. I’m needed every minute of every waking hour, and I’m needed half of the night. I’m constantly being touched.

Repeat after me: If Jesus Christ needed breaks, then I CERTAINLY need time alone.

Introverts need time alone to recharge. It is better for ourselves and for everyone else in our home if we get some time to recharge. You know that phrase, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”? We need time alone, for our emotional and mental health, about as badly as we need sleep for our physical health.

If I don’t get enough sleep, I feel like a zombie. I can barely function. Caffeine can work a little to get me through the day, but if I rely on caffeine and not sleep, I’m going to get sick. I don’t know about you, but for me, the same goes with alone time. If I don’t get time alone, I start to space out and check out. I can barely say a word to another human being, let alone hold a conversation. Distractions can work a little to get me through the day, but if I keep distracting myself without getting time alone, eventually I’m going to lose it, and either have an emotional breakdown or get really angry at my 3-yr old (who knows precisely which buttons to push in either of his parents).

Don’t feel guilty about getting time alone. Also don’t feel guilty about getting out of the house every once in a while to socialize with other people. That means date nights and girl nights. Maybe you’re like me, and you dread girls’ nights with a passion because you don’t relate to all that estrogen and emotion. Give it a chance. Studies show that it is important to a woman’s health to get time socializing with other women. If people start talking about their feelings, find another person to talk to, or change the subject to current events or pop culture. Or only go to events that include activities, like game nights or movie nights, so you aren’t obligated to talk at all. True story: Captain and I went on a date last month to dinner, and we brought a book of crossword puzzles to do. We ended up talking and laughing the whole time, but as introverts, it was nice to have the option to be together, but be quiet, and have something to do other than stare at each other while masticating.

Tip #3—Enforce quiet time (for your kids, but also for yourself).

Grace for the Introverted Mom (Just in time for the most stressful time of year for introverts—the holidays!)

If only my children would nap at the same time! I admit, right now, I’m in survival mode. When both kids are napping at the same time, I need to NOT DISTRACT myself (see #1), but do one single thing—one thing that is quiet and allows me to organize my thoughts. It could be writing a list, reading, or quietly doing some tedious or repetitive tasks that allow my brain to sort things out. My favorite mini-vacations when Champ was a baby were reading a magazine and painting my toenails. I got my magazines with deals I found on Tanga, but you can search for discounts any time at Discount Mags. A few years ago, I got 3 years of 6 magazines for less than $20 total. Not bad.

Other ideas: knitting, daydreaming, planning, having a caffeinated or weakly alcoholic libation.

No TV or internet during these times. See #1 and #4, below.

Tip #4—Spend time reading, offline.

Then you can focus and think and not be distracted by clickable rabbit trails. Reading is a way for introverts to fill up that need for socialization, because we are essentially having a conversation with the writer as we do it. All introverts should read. Extraverts, too, but especially introverts. That’s why I’m repeating myself by giving offline reading its own tip.

Offline reading is the best way to spend our time alone. Here’s why:

  • It gives us a chance to think and process…
  • …without the distraction of the internet…
  • …and it partially fulfills our need to socialize

Are you an introvert? How do you fill your “time alone” and “socialization” tanks? Do you have reading recommendations? Leave your opinions in the comments!

(I started writing this in August of 2013, at 2 am, when my husband was gone for 2 weeks in South Africa. Today I am finishing it. It is 3 pm in December, and Champ is still eating his lunch, two hours after his nap was supposed to begin. If you’re curious why I haven’t posted original content since this summer, with the exception of posts pertaining to Champ’s Birthday or our Geeky Halloween, allow me to direct you to  Mom Stress and Survival Parenting. Being a mom of two is a 24/7 job, and I’ll get back into blogging regularly when I can get housework back on track first. So expect posts to be few and far between until, say, ten years from now, when they will not be relevant to this generation. Welcome, class of 2020!)


30 thoughts on “Grace for the Introverted Mom

  1. Love this. I am too guilty of not using my alone time wisely and spending too much time online when I should be napping, showering, or reading offline. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. This is wonderful. As an introvert, I need quiet and time alone, but I didn’t make enough time for it while raising my 7 and homeschooling them. I burnt out in a bad way. Now, I make sure I get that time so I can finish raising these kiddos.

  3. That first image is great! I can so relate. Thanks for these tips, I think you are right and these are all things I really need to keep in mind.

  4. Oh my word, this is so true. I’m a stay-at–home, homeschooling mom of ten kids. (We actually have eleven, but our twenty year old has moved out.) I never, ever have time to myself. I constantly have several hands touching me or three kids fighting for my lap. Don’t get me wrong; I love them to death, but I long for just a few minutes of quiet time. Right now I just get to read for a few minutes at a time, and I occasionally get an uninterrupted shower. I always look forward to when the little ones go to bed, so that I can read or watch TV to my heart’s content, but by that point, I’m usually so exhausted that I fall asleep within the hour.

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  8. Recently ‘discovered’ I’m introverted at the age of 43…. Bit of a shock initially, then started reading to understand, but the biggest journey was trying to find people who understand how to be an introverted parent/wife…… So thank you! It’s a huge, but exciting learning curve for me….

    • I’m definitely learning that my kids do better when I give them QUALITY one-on-one time than if I am only half-way present all day long. Obviously with my small children, I’m still with them 24/7, but I can have more breaks to myself, and they are less needy, when I invest quality, face-to-face time with them up front, filling their tanks right away. When their tanks are filled, it gives me more time during the day to refill my own.

  9. Ah! I giant sigh of relief! I understand me now and I’m okay! (And I seriously need offline me time!) I love the book, “Grace for the Good Girl” as Christian self-help and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood for a fun novel!

  10. I’m a working mother who dreams of being a stay at home mother. But I get your point on being “on” all the time though my reasons are different than yours. I don’t have my kids clinging to me all day but i have people interrupting my thoughts all day and then an adorable bouncy four year old wanting to ‘play a game’ all evening. Am I the only mother who repeatedly says a blunt “no” to the question “want to play with me” ????? I always feel guilty for that but know if I say “yes” I’ll just end up snapping at him because I NEED TO BE ALONE. Anyway thanks for the encouragement.

    • I feel like all I say is no sometimes. If my son could just take a nap without me, once, then I could play with him. I try to give him lots of hugs and cuddle time in the morning so he’ll let me have peace later on. Still, I stay up until 2 or 3 am some nights just so I can get alone time while conscious.

      It’s a season. A tough season. But you are NOT alone, and you are NOT a bad mother. A bad mother wouldn’t feel guilt about it!

  11. Thank you! Just what I needed right now. I’m a homeschooling mom of an 11 year old daughter so you’d think it would get easier. We found out about a year ago she has aspergers, so she is still very “clingy”. Yeah, I can totally relate to, “I love you with all my heart, now leave me alone!” I do find comfort in knowing others walk the same road.

  12. I just found this article today and i’m so glad I’m not alone on this! You have no idea what a relief this is! A couple of my family members would tell me that I’m just depressed. Thank you so much! God bless you.

  13. ummm, are you me? Did I start a blog under a different identity?! You have embodied my struggles and that in itself has given me permission to take a deep breath and release the guilt I’ve built since babies. Thank you, from introverts everywhere.

  14. I needed this. All I’m going through is so similar. Not sure how I will be able to make time to decompress with my littles around but I now am certain I must try!

  15. I have read so much about introverts but never found this distinction between distraction and reflection. This helps my scientific INTJ brain calculate the best ways to spend my rare quiet time. But the best of all is your suggestion that distraction can be actually useful when I am over-socialized. It explains why an audiobook in my ear helps me cope with weeks of clingy child cries when hubby is too busy to offer me a break. Somehow it helps so much to understand all this better. Thank you for keeping it live all this time so I could discover it.

    • Oh, you are most welcome, Tamara! May you find time for both reflection and distraction. I still struggle to choose reflective time over brain-quieting distracted time, but reading page-turners helps! <3

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